The adage “love the sinner but hate the sin” is often used in discussions of Christianity and same-sex relationships, usually in a context where someone is saying “I love you, but I hate your sinful relationship”. This is problematic for two reasons, a secondary reason, and a fundamental reason.
The secondary reason is that it isn’t very loving, or if it is, it is using a definition of love that is so far removed from normal experience it is meaningless. My relationship with my husband is based on strong mutual love. If you are telling me that that love is something that should be hated, then that tells me your definition of love is nothing like my own.
You might say that you love your dog, even though it keeps you up all night with its barking. That might even be true. But when you say you ‘love’ me but you ‘hate’ my loving relationship, then you are saying that you love me despite the fact that I also love. That simply doesn’t make any sense. How is it that the love you express is Godly, but the love I express is sinful? The only way that you can do that is if you say the love I express is opposite to the love you express. The love my husband and I share is beautiful and enriching. The opposite of that sort of love is hate. If you ‘love’ me but ‘hate’ my loving relationship, then you are expressing a hateful form of love, which is no love at all.
Of course, that is only a secondary problem with loving the sinner but hating the sin. The fundamental problem for Christians is that Christ told us to do no such thing. He told us to do something quite different, and completely incompatible with loving the sinner but hating the sin.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:3-5, NIV
When you ‘love the sinner but hate the sin’ you are ignoring the plank in your own eye and, instead of hating it, you are (perhaps lovingly) trying to remove the mote from someone else’s eye. Loving the sinner and hating the sin is nothing more than finger pointing of the sort that Christ himself told us to avoid.
James Alison will be addressing how best we engage with those who are opposed to the full inclusion of LGBT people in Church life. The event is running in Belfast South Methodist Church, Lisburn Road, Belfast at 8pm on Wednesday 12 November. The Church is near the junction with Adelaide Park: look out for the “Agape Centre” sign outside. Coffee will be available from about 7.30.
The speaker is a Catholic theologian and author, with books including Knowing Jesus and Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay. His most recent project is Jesus the Forgiving Victim—an introductory course on Christianity for adults which is grounded in our humanity. Having formerly lived with the Dominican Order, he now works as a preacher, lecturer and retreat giver across Europe and South America.
He speaks of faith as ‘relaxing into God’s embrace’. A key strand of his work has been the givenness of sexual orientation—shaped by his own experience—and the future of the Church’s debate, about which he is optimistic. Described as ‘one of the most lucid and exciting theologians writing to-day’, he’s renowned for bringing fresh insight to familiar themes.
On Saturday 18 October, Changing Attitude Ireland is holding a public talk, “Choosing a Same-Sex Partner” at 1.45pm in St George’s Church, High Street, Belfast. The speaker is Malcolm Macourt, the author of a series of essays, Toward a Theology of Gay Liberation, that had a significant impact in the quest for inclusion in the 1970s. Malcolm returns to his native Belfast to speak about developments in faith and sexuality since. He will talk about choice in sexuality and the blessing of same-sex relationships.
The event is expected to last about 45 minutes and coffee will be served afterwards, followed by a short communion service. Changing Attitude members then retire for their AGM.
Just a quick post to wish everyone good luck for Belfast Pride tomorrow. Sorry we couldn’t be there. You will all be in our thoughts and prayers.
Regular readers will have noticed this blog hasn’t been updated for a while. This is because Michael and I have moved to Gibraltar. Faith and Pride hasn’t been forgotten, and normal service will be resumed once we have our lives a little more organised.
Please note there is no Faith, Pride, and Chat meeting this evening, due to personal reasons.
I have had a letter on equal marriage published in the Belfast Telegraph. The letter was shortened a bit for publication. The original is below.
With reference to Cynthia Campbell’s letter about same-sex laws (Letters, February 12), I would simply like to say that, as a practising Christian who takes God seriously and so believes the Bible’s teaching and prophesies and guidelines, I have to adhere to what it says about homosexuality as much as to any other subject.
So, as marriage is ordained by God in the first place and as being not for procreation but for companionship (Genesis 2:18), then you might consider that anything suggested by man as being a marriage does actually make it one as long as it meets this criterion. Christians who believe that marriage is about procreation should take note that procreation is not mentioned until after the Fall.
As the founder of Faith and Pride, a non-denominational gay Christian organisation, I would like to invite all gay Christians and their friends to any of our meetings. Details are on our website, https://faithandpride.org/.
Andrew McFarland Campbell
This was one of three adresses celebrating the life of the Reverend George Mervyn Kingston at a memorial service held at St George’s Church, Belfast on 8 February 2014. Mervyn was a wonderful priest, a loyal friend and an unlikely prophet, whose prophetic ministry was particularly concerned with reconciliation between Northern Ireland’s churches and communities. He co-founded Changing Attitude Ireland with his husband and partner, Dr Richard O’Leary.
I hadn’t been long back in Belfast in 2007 when I chanced across the website of Changing Attitude Ireland. Mervyn and Richard had set the organisation up a few months before, and it had yet to catch a fair wind. I sent them an e-mail and a cheque, a sign of my good wishes and a salve for a conscience that felt it could do little more. CAI was still very small – I think I was member number 6.
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There will be a memorial service for Mervyn Kingston, the co-counder of Changing Attitude Ireland, in St George’s, High Street, Belfast, at 11.30am-12.30pm on Saturday 8 February.
Mervyn, who died on 2 August 2013, was a pioneer of the gay Christian movement in Ireland. Faith and Pride merely builds on the work he started.